The season might be over, but fans can still catch the last few games and spot some silver linings for 2024. One of those developments seems to be Austin Wells' growth. The rookie catcher has been heating up over the last 10 days after a slow start to his MLB career.
Since Sept. 16, Wells is 8-for-29 with five runs scored, three home runs and six RBI, and his latest bomb was the most memorable to date.
During Tuesday night's series opener against the Blue Jays, Wells went oppo off Toronto closer JC Romano for a two-run shot in the top of the ninth. 367 feet. 102 MPH off the bat. That broke the 0-0 tie. The Yankees led 2-0 after Wells' missile and that's how the game would end.
That's three homers in his last five games and an encouraging sign with five games left in the year. Wells has proven himself defensively behind the plate, too, which is likely helping the Yankees settle their depth at the position for 2024.
Could it be Wells and Jose Trevino on the big-league roster with Ben Rortvedt in the minor leagues and ... Kyle Higashioka non-tendered or traded? It's starting to seem that might be how it all unfolds.
Yankees News: Austin Wells' clutch HR, Aaron Judge injury update, Gerrit Cole
Wells powered the Yankees to Tuesday night's win without Aaron Judge and Anthony Volpe, both of whom were out of the lineup. We've been advocating for Aaron Boone to rest the team's best players over the final week and it appears there's some inclination to do that.
Judge especially, because of the freak toe injury that sidelined him for almost two months and derailed the Yankees' season. As for his situation, there's more good news on that front. Boone told reporters before Tuesday's game that Judge is not expected to need offseason surgery on his right big toe, which certainly felt like it was up in the air because there were no concrete answers despite some speculation.
This hopefully means we can expect to see a fully healthy and unencumbered Judge at the onset of the 2024 campaign. No offseason setbacks or delays.
It's unclear how much Judge will play over the final five games, but Cy Young frontrunner Gerrit Cole, perhaps against some fans' wishes, will make his final start of 2023 on Wednesday night against the Blue Jays.
Cole has essentially locked up the AL Cy Young award and has made 32 starts totaling 200 innings. There's nothing left for him to prove to the voters against the rest of the field. We'd probably rather see him call it a season and ride off into the sunset as to not risk an injury or hurting his case with a bad outing.
But he'll be out there, and Rortvedt will be catching him, even though there's been a desire to see Wells behind the plate for the right-hander at least one time before the end of the season.
At the very least, this puts the Blue Jays in a precarious spot. They got shut down by Michael King on Tuesday as the right-hander tossed six scoreless frames and the bullpen allowed just two hits and a walk over the final three innings.
Toronto will now get Cole in an all-important matchup. The Yanks have nothing to play for, but the Jays are just 1.5 games ahead of the Astros for the second Wild Card spot and don't have it any easier as they close out the season against the Rays, who are fighting for the AL East crown.
One more gem for Cole, one more L for the Jays, and then at that point we think the Yankees should probably shut it down and let the kids play the final four meaningless contests.